Ranking the Big 10: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
If there is one area on offense that the Big 10 looks especially strong in in 2009, it's receiving.
Though receivers like Penn State's Deon Butler and Ohio State's Brian Robiskie have now gone to the NFL, the two leading receivers from last year, Minnesota's Eric Decker and Illinois' Arrelious Benn, both return for another year.
The Big 10 has had two Fred Biletnikoff Award winners already this decade—Charles Rogers and Braylon Edwards won it in 2002 and 2004, respectively.
There is a strong chance they get another this year.
11. Northwestern Jeremy Ebert/Sidney Stewart/Andrew Brewer
Northwestern lost their top four receivers from 2008 in Eric Peterman, Ross Lane, Tyrell Sutton, and Rasheed Ward.
The four combined for 73 percent of the team's receiving yards and 75 percent of their receptions. This unit is going to have a lot less experience, so the Wildcats can expect a huge drop-off in production.
This year, their top receiver will likely be Andrew Brewer, who finished with 145 yards last year on 18 catches for an average of 8.1 yards per catch.
Sophomore Jeremy Ebert will also play a key role after finishing with 15 catches for 161 yards in 2008.
10. Purdue Keith Smith/Aaron Valentin/Royce Adams
Purdue loses three of their top four receivers from 2008, when Desmond Tardy, Greg Orton, and Kory Sheets all graduated.
The three combined for 1,949 receiving yards, which was 67 percent of Purdue's total receiving yards in 2008.
The top returning receiver is Keith Smith, who (in 2008) caught 49 passes for 486 yards. Smith will be accompanied by seniors Aaron Valentin and Royce Adams.
Valentin, last year, caught 11 passes for 224 yards, while Adams has only been used as a return man.
9. Penn State Brett Brackett/AJ Price/Andrew Quarless
If there is one area Penn State is going to be weak on offensively this year, it's their receivers.
The Nittany Lions lose seniors Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood, and Derrick Williams. The three combined for 66 percent of PSU's receiving yards with 1,932 yards, and Butler leaves as Penn State's all-time reception leader.
Junior Brett Brackett will likely be their top receiver after catching 13 passes for 160 yards last year.
A.J. Price will see significant playing time after redshirting in 2008.
Senior tight end Andrew Quarless is the most experienced player of the bunch, and, after getting 11 catches in 2008, he should see an increase in balls thrown to him this year.
8. Indiana Terrance Turner/Demarlo Belcher/Tandon Doss
Indiana returns three of their top four receivers in Ray Fisher, Demarlo Belcher, and Terrance Turner.
Fisher will be making the move from wide receiver to defensive back. Sophomore Demarlo Belcher shows a lot of promise after catching 25 passes for 337 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman.
Junior Terrance Turner was third on the team in receptions last season and should see that number increase with Fisher moving to the defensive side of the ball.
Tandon Doss will be looked to to take Fisher's spot after catching 14 passes for 186 yards in 2008.
7. Ohio State Dane Sanzenbacher/Ray Small/DeVier Posey
The Buckeyes lose their top two receivers in Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline, who combined for nearly 60 percent of the Buckeyes' receiving yards and 12 of the 16 receiving TDs.
Dane Sanzenbacher is the top returning receiver after catching 21 passes for 272 yards in 2008.
Senior Ray Small now has a chance to break out after having to sit behind Robiskie and Hartline early on in his career. If Small can stay on good terms with Jim Tressell, which has proved difficult for most of his career, he could have an excellent season.
The Buckeyes are also looking to sophomore DeVier Posey to have a breakout year. The former five-star prospect had a decent freshman year, catching 11 passes for 117 yards, and will play a major role in 2009.
6. Iowa Derrell Johnson-Koulianos/Trey Stross/Tony Moeaki
Iowa loses two of their top three receivers from 2008, but, fortunately for them, their top receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos returns.
Johnson, last year, led the hawkeyes in both receptions with 44 and yards 639. Johnson, now a junior, should see his numbers rise with another year of experience under his belt and an established starter at QB in Ricky Stanzi.
The Hawkeyes also return Senior Trey Stross who, in 2008, caught 13 passes for 109 yards in a reserve role. Senior Tony Moeaki caught 13 passes for 144 yards, while struggling with injuries throughout the season.
5. Michigan Greg Matthews/Martavious Odoms/Darryl Stonum
The Wolverines have their top three receivers returning, which includes two that were freshman last year, meaning they can only get better.
Senior Greg Matthews is the leader of this group. Matthews, last year, was second on the team in receptions with 35 and yards with 409.
Matthews does not have the speed to be a superstar, but he may have the best hands in the Big 10. Freshman Martavious Odoms led the team last year in receptions with 49 and yards with 443.
Odoms could've had a much bigger year had he not had so many drops. Watch for him to improve on his numbers this year with much fewer drops.
Darryl Stonum was another freshman who saw a lot of playing time in 2008. Stonum was third on the team in yards with 176 and fourth in receptions with 14.
Junior Hemingway should also see significant time after missing the entire 2008 season from a combination of injuries and sickness.
4. Michigan State Mark Dell/Blair White/BJ Cunningham
The Spartans lose plenty of offense from 2008 with the departure of quarterback Brian Hoyer and running-back Javon Ringer.
Fortunately, they retain their top four receivers.
Junior Mark Dell is the leader of this group after leading the team in yards with 679 and third in receptions with 36.
Senior Blair White broke out last season and caught 43 passes for 659 yards. Look for him to be the No. 2 option again.
Sophomore BJ Cunningham is the youngest of the group and should try to take a bigger role this year, because the Spartans may have to look to him to lead if Dell decides to leave early.
This group should put up similar numbers as long as the new QB plays as well as Hoyer.
3. Wisconsin Garrett Graham/David Gilreath/Nick Toon
The Badgers are yet another team that return their top three receivers.
Tight end Garret Graham is not only the leader of the receiving corp, but this entire offense. Graham exceeded expectations last year when he had to replace injured Travis Beckum by leading the team in receptions with 40 and yards 540.
David Glireath was the second best receiver on the team, but he may be the best playmaker. Gilreath led the team in yards per catch while also rushing for 285 yards.
Nick Toon saw limited playing time in 2008, but should play a bigger role in the upcoming year. Toon only had 17 catches but managed 257 yards from them.
Freshman Kraig Appleton could have an early impact on the Badgers. Appleton was the biggest deep-threat in high school football last year, and his skills could be helpful on a team that will have to win games on the offensive side of the ball.
2. Minnesota Eric Decker/Hayo Carpenter/Brandon Green
If there is one area the Golden Gophers can be sure of production-wise this year, it's from their receivers.
Eric Decker returns as arguably one of the top five receivers in the nation after leading the Big 10 in yards with 1,074, which earned him first-team all Big 10 honors.
Although Decker will remain Minnesota's most deadly weapon, watch for the ball to be spread around more this year.
Juco recruit Hayo Carpenter joins the team for the 2008 season. Carpenter was the No. 1 Juco receiver in the nation last year and should put up very good numbers.
Brandon Green should also see an increased role this year after putting up decent numbers in 2008 as a freshman.
1. Illinois Arrelious Benn/Jeff Cumberland/Jarred Fayson
Illinois has one of the top three wide receiver corps in the nation. The unit is led by Arrelious Benn who may not only be the No. 1 receiver in the Big 10, but in the nation.
Benn won Big 10 freshman of the year in 2007 and followed that up with a first all Big 10 selection in 2008.
Despite facing double teams all year, Benn had two-and-a-half times more yards than Illinois' No. 2 receiver Will Judson.
Florida transfer Jarred Fayson, who had to sit out the 2008 season, should be able to take some of the pressure off of Benn.
Senior Jeff Cumberland should also play a major role. Though not a burner, Cumberland has great hands and should become a bigger threat in 2009.
This corps could end up being the best in the nation as long as QB Juice Williams can continue to improve his passing, which, so far in his career, has been average at best.